Recently the Truro Daily News published a piece that aims to ‘shed light’ on the issues of animal rights. It seems that radical Vegan movements that are most commonly found in larger cities has finally made its way to the more traditional landscape of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is a culturally rich area that has thrived through agriculture since its beginning — and before.
According to the article Tamara Cox, “believes most people are against cruelty but are not aware of what happens behind the scenes, or that they can be healthy on a plant-based diet.” I find this statement skewed. While it is true that people can live healthfully on a vegan diet, we do not live in a warm climate. The same problem arises when we attack native populations for their diets. People with less money, and less means, in cold climates are going to need animal protein for food. Vegetables, until subsidized by governments, are not cheap. While some can afford an all-vegetable and nutrient dense diet year-round, this is not an achievable goal for every family, especially the thousands of Nova Scotians on a fixed income.
Food affordability is just one part of this story. The food and agriculture industry in Nova Scotia provides jobs for many families. It is a livelihood that is not soon to be replaced. While better farm practices, and more vegetables, are always sought — we are still a province that experiences winter. In order to grow vegetables, grains and legumes in winter (if even at all), massive facilities would have to be funded. Nutrition, for the health of all, has to focus not only on the pure chemical aspects (what foods are needed for proper health) but also on the available sources. Families that cannot afford healthy options, if unable to buy local meats (which are nutrient dense and can provide adequate, if not sufficient nutrients), will turn to highly toxic cheap alternatives such as processed foods.
Farmers are not our enemy in the upcoming wars on food accessibility, food ethics, and the treatment of animals. That is factory farming. By isolating farmers and attacking a market that helps promote better food practices, Tamara is missing the entire point. Not every one is going to be vegan, nor are they going to share her ethics. Small farmers often care for animals just as much as vegans — they care for them day in and day out, shelter them, feed them, and ensure their standard of living is comfortable. Farmers fill the much needed gap between large scale farms with no ethics (and disgusting food practices) and no meat at all. The fact of the matter is that we do not live in California. There are no blueberries growing in the month of February. We do not have orange trees in our back yards, nor can we pick lentils any day of the week. We are in Canada, and if we attack the small farmers that are providing us better options for our health — all that’s left are cheap ‘foodlike’ products that are making us fat, sick, and die younger.
Melissa Stewart, who raises animals, worries that these comments are an attack on a valued Nova Scotian industry.
“I grew up with cows, chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, sheep, horses, etc. And they have ALL lived happy lives. I also live across the road from a cattle barn and they are perfectly comfortable with enough to eat and drink, and clean, private pens and assistance with calving.”
If Ms. Cox would like to have a conversation about the rights of animals, and on nutrition, she must first be willing to have an open and honest conversation with the farmers she has so ignorantly attacked. Instead of nuanced, thought-provoking arguments, Ms. Cox has resolved to use anthropomorphism to explain away the feelings she is so sure the animals have. While I do not argue that animals deserve a better life, we must consider the implications of a world without animals as a meat source. Suggesting persons lower the amount of meat eaten is a better step than outright telling them what not to do, especially in areas that may be classified as a food dessert. For some families, hunting deer, rabbits, moose, or even polar bear and seals (especially native populations) may be their only means of a healthful and enriched diet.
Healthy food choices, and farming, are hot button issues not because they are simple and easy to solve. Fear mongering does nothing more than isolate your cause, and effectively shuts down conversation. This is not how one should advocate for change. If Ms. Cox would like to see change in industry — she must first understand that its uses go far beyond simple food choices.